Seeing a big-budget comic book adaptation that's not released by either DC or Marvel Comics is becoming rarer and rarer in today's movie industry, but there are times when other players in that field come through with a big hit. That happened in the summer of 2020 when Netflix released The Old Guard, an exciting and explosive action movie centered around a group of immortal mercenaries with a cast anchored by the badass Charlize Theron. And as exhilarating as the movie is on its own, some of the behind the scenes facts about how it all came together — especially those action sequences — make it all the more enjoyable.
From start to finish of production, The Old Guard never lost track of its source material or the diverse group of actors and crew members who dedicated so much of themselves to produce a refreshing take on the superhero and comic book side of things. Here are just a few of those stories that will hopefully give you a better appreciation of The Old Guard.
Greg Rucka Made The Inclusion Of LGBTQ Characters A Requirement For The Adaptation Of His Graphic Novel
Once you look beyond the intense action and chaos of The Old Guard, you'll see that the movie is very much based around the close-knit bond of its central characters, and that's best illustrated in the relationship shared by Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli), a gay couple whose centuries-long companionship was built up from trying to kill one another to falling in love. This aspect of the story very important to Greg Rucka, the writer of the original graphic novel as well as the film adaptation. Rucka told EW he made the relationship a requirement if the story was ever adapted into a movie because he felt the audience needed to see a happy queer couple who fell in love despite everything going on around them.
Charlize Theron Trained Three To Four Hours A Day To Master The Fight Choreography
It's true that the characters and their individual stories are what give The Old Guard its heart, but those intense action sequences aren't anything to look down upon, especially considering how much work the actors put in while mastering various hand-to-hand combat skills. In a video released by Netflix around the time the movie was released in July 2020, Theron, who's no stranger to action roles like the one of Andy, revealed just how much she went through each day. This included working with different fight coordinators for three to four hours a day, during which time she worked on an assortment of striking motions with her hands, throws, and even some weapon work along the way.
Calling the process "really fucking hard," Charlize Theron explained that she would have to repeat the same motions anywhere from 40 to 80 times during the shoot to get the right take and line up with the other actors and stuntmen. And her handy axe that doesn't leave her side? Well, Theron had to bulk up just to have the strength to carry and use the heavy weapon without causing injury.
Gina Prince-Bythewood Needed To Find Actors Who Could Actually Act Like They Were 1,000 Years Old
One of the things that makes The Old Guard work so well is the casting. Not only do each of the members of the central cast seem like they have a lot of history with one another, but they all also give off the impression that they are centuries old by the time we first meet them. This is something director Gina Prince-Bythewood told CinemaBlend was one of the most challenging parts of the casting process, stating:
This was absolutely a challenge and it started with casting. I needed to find actors who we could believe were a thousand years old. You can't just be a great actor. Do you have that soulfulness? And I felt like I was very fortunate in every single role to find actors to embody that. And then how do you embody that? You can't play age, so what are you playing? So a lot of it was interesting.
Once the key members of the team were cast in their respective roles, Gina Prince-Bythewood sat down with each of them individually and gave them different things she wanted them to focus on while preparing and carrying out their performances. This was different for each character, but the director felt the work was worth it in the long run.
The Director Was Initially Hesitant To Cast Kiki Layne But Couldn't Ignore Her Strength And Vulnerability
The story told in The Old Guard is as much about Nile Freeman as it is about any of the other immortal characters, and so director Gina Prince-Bythewood knew that she had to find the perfect person to the carry on that role. As we all saw upon the film's release, Kiki Layne was able to bring the character to life quite well, but the director was initially hesitant leading up to the actress' auction, as she told Variety:
I was like, 'Wow, she is really good, but no way could she be Nile. She's just too soft.' And then she came into auction and within five seconds, I was like, 'Oh my God, that's Nile.' She had that innate strength, but also the innate vulnerability and this innate goodness. Kiki in real life is a light and she brought that to the role and I believed her in every moment and she had the desire to be great.
Gina Prince-Bythewood became even more impressed with Kiki Layne ability to become Nile as the training and shooting carried on, and the director even noticed that Layne was becoming the character as they carried on.
The Epic Fight Aboard The Plane Was The First Scene Shot
Shortly after Nile and Andy first meet, they take part in one of the most exciting action sequences in the entire movie when they show off their hand-to-hand and healing capabilities aboard an airplane on a crash course with the surface of the earth.
Conventional wisdom would tell a director to save something like this for later on in the production, but not Gina Prince-Bythewood. No, she actually filmed the badass fight before anything else was put on film when shooting first began. During a conversation with CinemaBlend, the director revealed that she was initially nervous about it but later decided to "go big or go home" and so she and the rest of the cast and crew threw themselves into it and ended up capturing one of the best fights in recent memory.
Charlize Theron Had To Undergo Surgery After Sustaining A Nasty On-Set Injury
On-set injuries are a common occurrence while filming action movies as hard-hitting as The Old Guard, but that doesn't make an injury Charlize Theron sustained during production any less severe. During an interview with EW, Theron revealed that she needed up tearing a tendon in her left thumb with only a few weeks left in production but didn't want to halt the shoot and get surgery. The action star even admitted that people on set said the injury looked serious, but Theron held her ground and waited until the end of production before taking care of the issue. After everything was said and done, Theron ended up needing three surgeries on her left arm to repair the tendon.
Gina Prince-Bythewood Took What She Learned On The Spider-Man Silver & Black Movie And Applied It To The Old Guard
Prior to working on The Old Guard, Gina Prince-Bythewood was supposed to direct Silver & Black, an unproduced entry in the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters that was to focus on Black Cat and Silver Sable. The movie never came to fruition, but Prince-Bythewood didn't let it get her down too much and instead used it as a learning experience, as she told CinemaBlend in 2020:
Everything happens for a reason. I learned so much in that year and a half. All the stuff I was learning about doing a film of that scale I could transfer over to The Old Guard. So it didn't feel like a gigantic leap.
Some of what Gina Prince-Bythewood learned during the ups-and-downs of the failed Marvel movie helped her with The Old Guard in the sense that she was able to create an edgier and more violent comic book movie and one that had two badass female leads at the center of the story.
The Post-Production Team Was 85 Percent Female
From start to finish, The Old Guard is very much a movie centered around strong female characters, and the same can be said about things behind the scenes as well. During a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter around the time of the film's July 2020 release, Gina Prince-Bythewood revealed that the post-production team was made up of 85% women, which is in an achievement that is pretty much unheard of, even after major pushes for diversity in recent years.
Harry Melling Actually Performed His Own Stunt In The Film's Final Showdown
Harry Melling's Steven Merrick, the pharma CEO after the immortal mercenaries in The Old Guard is perhaps one of the British actor's most detestable roles, well besides Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter franchise. And although his character doesn't leave anyone with much to be proud of, one thing Melling was excited about was the fact that he got to perform his own stunt work during that final showdown atop Merrick's London office. Here's what he told the Evening Standard about it earlier in 2020:
I say this with a huge amount of pride because often on this shoot I was sort of watching all the other actors do their amazing choreography bits and being exploded an all the sorts. And actually at the end, without giving too much away, let's just say I was sort of on a whole wire system levitating in the air. That was pretty exciting. You know, I don't usually get to do stunts. So for me that was a very exciting moment.
That final moment, in all its glory, is one of the most satisfying parts of the movie and is almost as great as watching poor Dudley Dursley get his competence at the hands of Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Charlize Theron Had No Idea The Old Guard Would Be Such A Hit While Making It
You never really know how a movie is going to turn out, and Charlize Theron had that very feeling while working on The Old Guard. In an interview with Variety, Theron explained that she never considered how big the movie would be while they were filming and honestly didn't want to ask anyone about the expectations because she was not brave enough to hear any predictions. Little did Theron, or anyone else know, the movie was a runaway hit upon its Netflix release, especially during a time when people wanted new content more than ever.
Well, that about catches us up with everything that happened behind the scenes on the making of The Old Guard. Now we just need to find out when that highly anticipated sequel is coming out…